The Complete Guide to Traveling From La Fortuna to Monteverde & Vice Versa
The best ways to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde, Costa Rica by car, boat, bus, and horseback, and more!
Both the Arenal area and Monteverde are very popular Costa Rican destinations for tourists looking to enjoy nature and adventure tours such as hiking, horseback riding, ziplining, river rafting, and more. If you look at a map, the two towns appear to be neighbors. In reality transportation between La Fortuna and Monteverde is not so straight-forward.
The road between La Fortuna and Monteverde, Costa Rica is 122 kilometers or 75 miles long, but due to treacherous dirt roads, the journey often requires a 4×4 and takes roughly 4 hours. There are many convenient transportation options for travel from Arenal to Monteverde and vice-versa. You can travel between the two towns by taxi-boat-taxi, bus, shuttle, hiking, or horseback riding. The trip can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to 8 hours.
Here we’ll explain how to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde, or from Monteverde to Arenal, with each of these different methods, as well as the duration, cost, and pros and cons of each. Then we’ll talk about some of our favorite activities in both destinations and answer some FAQs.
Visiting La Fortuna and Monteverde, Costa Rica’s Best Nature Adventures
Beneath the majestic Volcano Arenal, nestled on Lake Arenal and dotted with natural hot springs, you’ll find the town of La Fortuna, Costa Rica. It sits on the edge of a primary rainforest filled with waterfalls that leads to the town of Monteverde, Costa Rica. Monteverde is known for its rainforest conservation efforts and the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where magnificent trees stretch up into the clouds and visitors can walk on hanging bridges that guide them through the canopy.
If you’re ready to experience the beauty and adventure of both La Fortuna and Monteverde, read on for a detailed explanation of how to get from one to the other by car, bus, boat, horseback, and more. Part 1 compares each different method of transportation, and part 2 lists some of the best things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica and La Fortuna before answering some FAQs about the area.
Comparing the best modes of transportation between Arenal and Monteverde
This table compares the bare bones details of each method of transportation between the Arenal area and Monteverde.
|Duration||3.5 hrs||4-5 hrs||8 hrs||4 hrs||4 hrs|
|Cost||$25||$75/day + gas||$10||$200-$330+||$54|
Ultimately, we think The Big Forest Hike is the best way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde, Costa Rica because it’s the only way to immerse yourself in the abundant nature and wildlife this area has to offer.
When you travel between Monteverde and La Fortuna, you’re traversing some of the most unique and jaw-dropping natural landscapes and habitats in all of Costa Rica, if not the world! You don’t want to let it pass you by. Traveling between Arenal and Monteverde isn’t just a transfer, it’s an experience in itself. Plan your Big Forest Hike today to get the full experience!
The most unique and adventurous way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde:
The Big Forest Hike
The best way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde if you want to truly experience and enjoy the raw beauty of Costa Rica’s most prized rainforests is The Big Forest Hike.
If hiking from La Fortuna to Monteverde, horseback riding from Monteverde to Arenal, or a combination of both intrigue and excite you, you’ll love The Big Forest Hike.
By trekking through the land that lies between Arenal and Monteverde, you get to experience first-hand the wonders offered by both, away from the typical tourist routes. You’ll immerse yourself in the heart of the Monteverde cloud forests and trek your way across the terrain, climbing mountains, crossing raging rivers, and bathing in refreshing waterfalls.
If you want to go horseback riding in Costa Rica, you’ll take a break and hop on your horse, riding through the jungle and enjoying incredible views. Then, the rainforest trail will open up onto Lake Arenal, and you’ll hike or horseback ride along its rich blue and orange shores, perhaps spotting a rainbow, before riding up to a panoramic viewpoint of both Volcano Arenal and Lake Arenal.
Congratulations! You’ve just traveled from Monteverde to Arenal and crossed the continental divide without burning fossil fuels!
The fastest way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde:
If you want to skip the sight-seeing and get to your destination as quickly as possible, taxi-boat-taxi, otherwise known as jeep-boat-jeep or van-boat-van, is the way to go.
You won’t miss out entirely on the scenic views, though, as you’ll get to spend part of the journey in a boat crossing Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake. You’ll still hear this referred to as jeep-boat-jeep from the days when the roads were so bad they had to take jeeps, but now most companies use comfortable modern vans.
The jeep-boat-jeep service offers transportation both ways between La Fortuna/Arenal and Monteverde, Costa Rica. Leaving from La Fortuna, you take a shuttle to Lake Arenal, then a boat across Lake Arenal, and then another shuttle to your hotel in Monteverde. The total trip takes 3.5 hours and costs $25 per person each way. Departure times from La Fortuna are 8:30am and 2:30pm, and departure times from Monteverde are 8:00am and 2:00pm.
The most unstructured way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde:
If you’re really set on doing the route on your own, it can be done in your rental car. The roads are not paved all the way, so it’s important to have high clearance to avoid damage from potholes and bumps. During rainy season, you’ll want 4×4. Many rental car companies and hotels will recommend you rent a car with 4WD year-round for this route just to be safe.
To drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde, you’ll take route 142 up to Lake Arenal and then drive around the northern shores of the lake. This road is curvy, scenic, and fully paved, with lots of great spots to stop at for food and drinks along the way. You’ll take route 142 all the way to Tilaran on the other side of the lake, and then you’ll drive through the town and connect to route 145. Tilaran is the last place on this route to stop for gas. Route 145 will soon turn into a dirt road, and you’ll stay on it as it eventually turns into route 606.
It’s not recommended to drive this route at night. You should also ask your rental car agency or hotel about road conditions before leaving, as you never know in Costa Rica. Storms and even hurricanes can pass through destroying roads and bridges, and not just during rainy season. Pay attention to your GPS as the road branches off several times, and it’s easy to get lost.
The cheapest way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde:
The public bus is usually the cheapest mode of transportation, but it’s usually the slowest. Some routes are efficient, but the trip from La Fortuna to Monteverde takes 8 hours — far longer than any other mode of transportation.
While the buses are great for some routes, this is not one of them. If you do decide to take the bus, it helps if you speak a little Spanish as most bus drivers don’t speak English.
To get from La Fortuna to Monteverde by bus, you’ll start at the bus station in La Fortuna next to the Megasuper parking lot. You’ll take the bus from La Fortuna to Tilaran, which is about 2.5. There, you’ll get off and have to wait 2-3 hours for the next bus to Monteverde/Santa Elena. The bus from Tilaran to Monteverde takes another 2.5 hours.
Bus schedules change frequently so check at the bus station the day beforehand, but you will need to take the first bus from La Fortuna to Tilaran which leaves at 7 or 8am.
To get from Monteverde to La Fortuna by bus, you will also change buses in Tilaran and leave at 7 or 8am. Total cost is around $10-$15 per person.
The most expensive way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde:
This is the most expensive way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde, although if you split the cost among a large group, the price can be comparable to other methods.
To get from La Fortuna to Monteverde by private transfer, or vice versa, you can book a private shuttle with one of the many tour companies in both areas. You can also hire a taxi. Both will be ground transportation, so you won’t be crossing Lake Arenal like you would with the taxi-boat-taxi service, and it will take roughly 4 hours. Private shuttles cost anywhere from around $200 to $330 and more depending on the size of the van. As for taxi, many drivers will not do the trip because it’s far and the roads are rough, and prices vary greatly. Whatever you find, it will be expensive.
The best way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde if you’re afraid of boats and don’t like hiking:
Unless you have a big group, it’s a better idea to take a shared shuttle than a private one. These are shuttles run by companies like Interbus that run all kinds of popular routes throughout the country and are mainly used by tourists. These are air-conditioned passenger vans that hold around 10-12 people, and you’ll be sharing the ride with other tourists. This is more expensive and takes longer than taxi-boat-taxi, so it really only makes sense for people who don’t want to go on a boat.
To get from La Fortuna to Monteverde by shuttle, you’ll need to contact one of the shuttle companies that run in Arenal or Monteverde, such as Interbus, and make a reservation. This is ground transportation, so you won’t be crossing the lake. The cost is $54 per person, and total travel time is about 4 hours.
There are many different ways to travel between La Fortuna and Monteverde, Costa Rica. All of them have their pros and cons.
Of all these options, the Big Forest Hike is easily the most memorable, unique, and unique way to travel between La Fortuna and Monteverde. Turn your journey into an experience. For more information on The Big Forest Hike and to see the full itinerary, visit our thematic nature adventures in Costa Rica.
Part 2: Tips for traveling in Monteverde, La Fortuna, and the Arenal area in Costa Rica
There’s a reason that Monteverde and La Fortuna are two of Costa Rica’s most beloved destinations. Here are some of the top things to do in the Arenal area and in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Top things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica
Explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Visit the hanging bridges
See the butterfly, frog, and snake sanctuaries
Taste the cheese, ice cream, and coffee
Best horseback riding, hiking, and nature adventure tours in Arenal
Arenal is known for hosting some of the best nature adventure tours in all of Costa Rica. If you’re interested in a longer trek that will let you experience the intense beauty of both all in one day, The Big Forest Hike is the best option.
If you prefer a serene horseback riding experience that offers great views of Lake Arenal and the cloud forests, consider trekking to our Base Camp in Arenal, Costa Rica. This Base Camp Day Tour takes you through the edge of the cloud forests, stopping at a majestic waterfall, and then moving on to our fully-functional day camp in the jungle where you can relax, charge your gear, make some food, take a shower, and explore a private, four-acre farm and food forest.
Finally, if you’re all about waterfalls, contact us to discover which of our thematic nature adventures include a trip to a waterfall. Our bilingual guide will take you on a private horseback riding adventure up to one of the most stunning, hidden waterfalls in the Arenal area. You’ll have the whole place to yourself! Enjoy a refreshing swim, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for monkeys, toucans, and sloths.
Horseback riding through the rainforest in Costa Rica
Transfer between Arenal and Monteverde FAQ
How far is Monteverde from Arenal?
The distance between Monteverde, Costa Rica and La Fortuna and the Arenal area is roughly 122 kilometers, or 75 miles. The trip can take anywhere from 3.5 hours to 8 hours depending on the mode of transportation you choose.
Should I visit Monteverde or Arenal?
Both! If you have to choose between the two, you can always visit the Arenal area and then go on our Waterfall Half-Day Tour or Base Camp Tour, which will give you a little taste of the primary rainforests that Monteverde is known for.
Is Monteverde worth it?
We think so! Monteverde is home to some of the most astounding primary rainforest in the world, as well as many species that are adapted to live in the canopy of the rainforest. However, if you don’t have time for Monteverde, you can always do one of our other hiking tours from La Fortuna which will also take you through the cloud forests.
What is the easiest way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde?
If you’re looking for ease and convenience and don’t want to exert yourself, go for the taxi-boat-taxi option.
What is the cheapest way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde?
If you’re only interested in spending as little money as possible, taking the bus is your best option.
What is the fastest way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde?
If you’re on a time crunch and prefer go fast over soaking up the views, taxi-boat-taxi will get you there the quickest.
What is the most scenic way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde?
If you want to squeeze as many beautiful views and see as much nature and wildlife as possible on your journey between La Fortuna and Monteverde, The Big Forest Hike is the way to go.
What is the most eco-friendly way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde?
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling in Costa Rica, a country known for its environmental conservation efforts, The Big Forest Hike is the only way to travel between La Fortuna and Monteverde without burning any fossil fuels.
Do we really need a 4×4 to drive from Arenal to Monteverde?
If you are planning to take the faster but more dangerous route, driving along the southern side of Lake Arenal, a 4×4 is absolutely necessary as you will be crossing rivers. If you take the other route, driving along the northern side of Lake Arenal through Nuevo Arenal and Tilaran and then up to Monteverde, you may be able to get all the way to Monteverde without 4WD, depending on current road conditions. The final stretch of road is unpaved and full of potholes, so having 4WD makes it more comfortable. However, during dry season, it’s usually possible to do the drive without 4WD. During rainy season, we recommend getting 4WD. An car with good ground clearance is helpful year-round due to potholes and bumps in the road.
What are the best jeep-boat-jeep companies?
People often ask for the most trustworthy jeep-boat-jeep or taxi-boat-taxi companies, but the truth is, they’re all pretty much the same. While you can purchase the transportation from a number of different tour operators, they’re all selling the same product! All jeep-boat-jeep trips take the same route, leave at the same times, and cost about the same price.
Can I drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde during rainy season?
Yes, it is possible. However, you will need to have a car with high clearance and 4WD. Additionally, you’ll need to inquire about road conditions a few days before you leave, and on the day that you leave. Road conditions can change at a moment’s notice in Costa Rica due to storms, floods, and more, especially during rainy season.
Can I go from Arenal to Monteverde on horseback?
You can get from Arenal to Monteverde on horseback through our Big Forest Hike, which involves both hiking and horseback riding through the stunning cloud forests. While other horseback tours will take you on a brief horseback ride before putting you in a van, the Big Forest Hike is done fully on foot and horseback between La Fortuna and Monteverde.
How difficult is the hike from La Fortuna to Monteverde, Costa Rica?
If you’d like to hike all the way from La Fortuna to Monteverde, Costa Rica, you can do that with The Big Forest Hike. While we offer the option of horseback riding part of the way, you can also choose to do the whole journey on foot. It will take a little bit longer and be a little more physically straining. You’ll be hiking up mountains and crossing rivers. You should be in good physical condition in order to do The Big Forest Hike, and you should have appropriate attire, including good, proven hiking boots, sun protection, rain gear, and layered clothing for changes in temperature. The route is challenging but incredibly rewarding.
Are your nature adventure tours in English or Spanish?
All of our nature adventure tours are bilingual, offered in both English and Spanish. They are guided by us as well as our local horseback guides.
While there are many ways to get between Arenal and Monteverde, there’s nothing more unique and adventurous (and eco-friendly!) than traversing the route on foot and horseback. The Big Forest Hike harkens back to the way Costa Ricans used to travel between these towns not too long ago, offering you an authentic glimpse of Costa Rican culture, wildlife, and nature. If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience while you’re in Costa Rica, plan your Big Forest Hike today.